Indian Art and Culture GK notes: Indian Dances

Indian Art and Culture Gk notes: Indian Dances

This article contains the information about the various Indian Dances, both Classical Dances as well as famous Indian Folk Dances as part of Indian Art and Culture in UPSC General Studies paper . Dances of India  is a very important as far as the Civil Services or other GK examinations are concerned.

Dances of India – Introduction:

  • The art of dancing in India may be traced back to the Harappan culture. The discovery of
    the bronze statue of a dancing girl proves the fact that some women in Harappa
    performed dances.
  • In traditional Indian culture, the function of dance was to give symbolic expression to
    religious ideas. The figure of Lord Shiva as Nataraja represents the creation and destruction
    of the cosmic cycle.
  • Gradually dances came to be divided as folk and classical. The classical form of dance was performed in temples as well as in royal courts.
  • The dance in temples had a religious objective whereas in courts it was used purely for
  • In southern India, Bharatanatyam and Mohiniattam developed as an
    important aspect of the rituals in temples. Yakshagana, a form of Kathakali in Kerala, tells
    us stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata whereas Kathak and Manipuri are mostly related
    to the stories of Krishna and his leela (exploits). Performance of Odissi is related to the
    worship of Lord Jagannath.
  • Folk dances evolved from the lives of common people. In Assam people celebrate most of the harvesting season through
    Bihu. Similarly Garba of Gujarat, Bhangra and Gidda of Punjab, bamboo dance of Mizoram,
    Koli, the fisherman’s dance of Maharashtra, Dhumal of Kashmir, and Chhau of Bengal are
    some famous Folk dances.
  • The Natyashastra of Bharata,
    is a primary source of information, and basically deals with drama. Bharata has classified facial expressions, body movements, hasta
    mudras and the footsteps under three broad categories
    namely, as Nritta (pada sanchalan), Nritya (anga sanchalan) and Natya (abhinay).
  • Kathak dance form was promoted by the Muslim rulers in the medieval period . We hear
    of these performances in the courts of most of the Mughal rulers except for Aurangzeb. In
    the south, temples, ‘court’ and other parts of the building provided an important stage for
    all dancers. Some rulers of the north like Wajid ali Shah was a great patron of
    music and dance and here the seeds of the Lucknow gharana or ‘school of dance’ was
    sown. The modern day dancers like Pt. Birju Maharaj  have come from the Lucknow
    school of dance.
  • Along with classical dance forms, folk dance also flourished. The Bihu dance of Assam, Mask dance of Ladakh, Wangla of
    Meghalaya, Bhutia or Lepcha dance of Sikkim. Similarly we also have some dances which
    are called martial dances like Chholia of Uttranchal, Kalari paittu of Kerala, Thang-taa of
    Manipur among the more famous ones.

Classical Dances and Region:

  • BharatNatyam – Tamil Nadu
  • Kathakali – Kerela
  • Mohiniattam – Kerela
  • Oddisi – Odisha
  • Kuchipudi – Andhra Pradesh
  • Manipuri – Manipur
  • Kathak –  Northern India (mainly U.P)


Well-known Dancers of Modern India:


  • Pt. Birju Maharaj, Pt. Shambhu Maharaj, Sitara Devi, Pt. Gopi Krishna, and Pt.
    Lacchu Maharaj.


  • Saroja Vaidyanathan, Padma Subhramaniam, Geeta Chandran, Rukmini Devi Arundale, Mrinali Sarabhai, Mallika Sarabhai.


  • Kelucharan Mahapatra, Sanjukta Panigrahi, Kiran Sehgal and Madhavi Mudgal.


  • Ragini Devi, Swapna Sundari, Satya Narayan Sarma, Raja Reddy, Radha Reddy and Sonal

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